quilts, school

Teacher Gift – Quilt with Student-Made Blocks

In November, our school hosts the Great American Teach-In where they invite parents and members of the community to be a teacher for a day and share about their jobs.  In 2014 I helped out when my husband’s aunt came as a nurse from Shriner’s Hospital and it made me think that I could share about quilt making the next year.  After much thought I decided to do it for the 2015 Teach-In.  Now that the 2016 Teach-In is only a couple months away, I thought I’d share how I went about this.

I thought a lot about how I was going to share my hobby with the students.  I wanted to show them all the different stages of a quilt going together but I also wanted it to be interactive.  I cut out a 6 1/2″ square for each student and ironed it to a piece of freezer paper to stabilize it.  Then I collected all my Sharpies and bought a few packages of Tulip fabric markers so the students could create their own design on their block.

Teacher Quilt with Student Designed Squares



I knew there was going to be quite a bit of preparation to get the fabric squares for two classes (my son’s and my daughter’s) together.  I also had a secret plan to add those student-designed squares to a quilt as a Christmas gift for each teacher.  I even cut blocks for the rest of the quilt so I could start sewing them together soon after the Great American Teach-In.

Then, I was told that I would be teaching to a combined classroom – both my child’s classroom and its sister classroom.  I was immediately overwhelmed with the idea of making 4 teacher quilts and decided my plan would have to change.  I still wanted all the students to be able to create their own fabric so I added about 40 more white blocks on freezer paper to my existing stack of 40.  And then decided to play it by ear.

Wall Hanging Quilt for Teacher

I shared and taught about making quilts to my son’s 4th grade classmates first.  They were all very interested in the process and how I put things together.  When they finally got their squares and the markers we were running out of time.  I needed the markers for 2nd grade but I promised I would send the markers back so they could work on their squares the next day during “fun Friday.”

2nd grade was a little tougher audience than 4th.  I sped through the process a little more quickly and then doled out the markers and fabric.  Some of the 2nd graders did not want to color on the fabric and others could care less what they put on the fabric so I decided that they could all keep their fabric squares and take them home.

On Friday afternoon my son brought home a fabric square from each of his fourth grade classmates and I decided that I would make a wall hanging with them for his teacher.  But not for Christmas as I had already moved on to table runners as teacher gifts.

Silver Polka-Dot Binding

Originally I planned to have this quilt finished some time in the new year but it always got pushed to the back burner.  I completed it in April 2016 and decided it would be a great gift for Teacher Appreciation Week.  I brought it in to class at the end of the week and the students gave it to their teacher.  The students were super excited to see their blocks in a quilt and their teacher will have a great memento of the 2015-2016 4th grade class.

Quilt Details:

Size: 25 x 25 inches

Sashing:  A solid grey I had on hand…any pattern I tried took away from the blocks

Quilting:  Straight lines, both vertically and horizontally in the sashing and horizontal lines at the top and bottom.

Binding:  Super fun silver polka dot – I will use this again for binding!  In the interest of time, I used a zigzag stitch to sew the binding down to the backing.  I also added a pocket on the back for hanging.

Backing:  (Not shown) Leftover grey and white sheet from another project




organization, school, Tampa home

Simple Desks for Elementary Students

It’s been about two years since the kids and I went on a fun trip to get desks.  We had a lot of room in our craft room/office and I wanted them to each have their own place to do homework.  But, I didn’t want to spend too much on furniture that might not fit into the next house.  Since we already had a lot of storage for school supplies, I wanted a simple tabletop for each of them.

Since I’ve moved to Tampa and been near an Ikea, it’s become my go to store for furniture and storage items.  You can’t beat the prices and I’m not as worried about it becoming damaged in a future move.  There are still areas where I want nice furniture but there are a lot of places where Ikea is just right, such as these desks.

For under $100, we were able to buy two tabletops, two sets of legs and two swivel chairs.  The most difficult part of our adventure was choosing the chairs.  I had a vision for chairs that was a little different from the kids.  They both wanted different colors and different styles and I eventually steered them towards a single color, single style even though it wasn’t exactly the color I wanted.

Originally I set up the desks in the middle of the room and they faced each other.  This worked okay but they would easily distract each other and the desktops seemed to be constantly messy.  This prompted furniture move #2 in the craft room and their desks went up against a wall.

It turned out that the scrap book supply cubes I bought years ago were the exact same height as the desks and helped to contain some of the clutter that had spread over their desks.  And, I finally put labels on the drawers and it really helped with keeping things organized!


Elementary Study Area with Ikea Desks

I tend to get a project to 95% finished and call it good enough.  Labels are usually part of that last 5% that I don’t get to.  In the last year, I’ve been much better about adding labels and I am seeing why it is so useful.  Not to mention cute!  I still give myself a pat on the back every time I realize how helpful they are.

School Supply Storage

Each of the kids has a drawer to stash anything they’d like to help keep the clutter off of their desks.  Then I have places for glue, string, stamps and crayons.  There is a drawer for paper, a drawer for random craft supplies and a drawer for cards.  I recently went through and went through the cards.  There were a lot of good intentions in there…that never got mailed.  I decided if I hadn’t sent out the Thanksgiving cards in 5 years, I probably wasn’t going to get to that!

I bought each of the kids a desk calendar in an attempt to help them stay better organized.  I was mostly thinking of my son, who I thought could benefit from a monthly overview instead of the weekly planner he brings home from school.  My daughter was self motivated and has hers all filled out with special dates and homework due dates and his is still pretty much blank!

Casey's Desk

They each have a caddy on or near their desks which corral some of the junk that flows in.  We clean them out every once in a while when they start to overflow.  We’ve had them for years and they have always been useful in one way or another.

student desk with desk calendar

And finally, we have a lot of pencils!  I bought this divided copper container at Homegoods once and have been searching for a good place for it.  It’s a little short to store my kitchen utensils but it turns out to be a great place to store markers, pencils, scissors and rulers.

Copper Storage for School Supplies

The wall that the desks are on is a 16 foot wall and it was overwhelming to figure out what to put on the wall.  Originally it was going to have our college degrees on there but I thought it was a little boring.  When I moved the kids’ desks to this wall, it would have been cute to add bulletin boards and some of their projects but we just left it as is.

Desk Area

Now that my daughter’s room has been updated, she wanted her desk upstairs, so this area just has my son’s desk.  A few other things have been moved around and as soon as the new shelves are decorated, I’ll post the whole craft room/office!

moving, Navy life, Tampa home

In the Navy – Our Next Adventure

Even though we move a lot, courtesy of the US Navy, we generally have a good idea of how long we are going to be in a certain location.  We knew that we would have two years in Memphis and about two years here in Tampa.  And luckily, we already know when and where we are going next!  But in the meantime, I’m going to eke out another year in Tampa.

We know that we’ll be moving next summer but Pat will be done with his job here in Tampa soon and will be doing some training over this school year.  The kids and I will be enjoying one more year with our friends in this area.

I’ve been meaning to blog more of our Tampa home recently, but there has been a lot of work going on “behind the scenes” so to say.  We have already purchased the house we are going to be living in next and we are very excited about it!  I am so looking forward to owning a house again and I have spent a lot of time planning how things are going to work and fit in the next house.  I’ve been getting tight with Pinterest and graph paper.  But I haven’t spent much time planning and writing blog posts here.

The behemoth we live in now is a little too much for us at over 3000 square feet.  It has five bedrooms plus a big office and a big playroom and a formal dining room.  We have certainly figured out how to spread into all this space but we don’t need it and it’s a lot to take care of.

Our next house will be closer to 2700 square feet.  We will be using the formal dining room as the office and the playroom is going to be much smaller.  Plus we’re going down to 4 bedrooms.

Already knowing where we’re going to move in a year is kind of a luxury and I’m super excited about being able to plan the spaces.  While our Tampa house has a lot of space, the storage is awkward and it’s been difficult to organize using the existing systems and keeping spending minimal.  The fifth bedroom is essentially just a catch all for all random things.  The new house will probably have even less storage but I’m determined to think it all though and figure out where everything will fit and create the custom systems we will need.

Planning the next house has meant some changes here in Tampa lately.  Part of that means some serious purging and really thinking about what we use now and will use in the future.  Part of that is figuring out where we’re going to store certain items in the future and making a few changes here to “practice”.  I’m looking at every single thing in this house and asking myself where it is going to go in the next house.

Recently Casey’s room has gotten an update and is almost finished.  I loved her furniture when we got it but it was feeling too dark for the room and for our bright and happy child and it wasn’t all going to fit in the new house.  At first we thought we should wait and buy new furniture after we move so we don’t have to move it and risk it getting damaged.  But I already knew what I wanted to get in her room and that it would work well in the new room and hopefully it will survive the move.  Her room is now the brightest room in the house and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.  Just a few more projects to finish and it will be done!

I’m also working on the craft room/office.  There is no closet in the office in the new house and it is also open to the front entry.  I’ll need a good storage system…one that holds a lot of stuff but also looks good!  I have never been completely pleased with the craft room here which is why I’ve only ever shown part of it.  I’ve moved furniture around in it three times but there’s always a problem wall or spot.  I’m determined to get a good shot of the whole room soon!

So stay tuned for some updates on the Tampa house and maybe some plans for the new house.  And once I restore the craft room from it’s chaos, I’ll get some sewing done too!



family, travel

Summer 2016 – Cooperstown, NY

It’s been so long since I’ve written that I temporarily forgot my login to WordPress!  When school got out in early May, I had no idea how little I would end up accomplishing.  This summer has been very busy with camps, baseball, softball, traveling and one more traveling adventure to come.  And then school starts!!!  There have been very few days when we have had a long summer day stretching out before us with nothing to do, so when those days have come along, I have embraced them.  Which means I have very little sewing or decorating or organizing to share on the blog but I do have some summer adventures.

Three weeks ago, we set out on our summer road trip.  We drove to Ocean City, Maryland for a week at the beach.  We also decided that this would be a good summer to go to Cooperstown, NY and visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Both of the kids got into baseball and softball and were on all-star teams, they started collecting baseball cards, they’ve been watching baseball on TV…the great American pastime has been alive and well at our house this year.  We don’t know what the next two summers might be like with Pat’s schedule so this was the year.

We arrived in Cooperstown mid-afternoon and enjoyed walking around the main street.  I have been to Cooperstown before (about 13 years ago) but those memories seem to have disappeared and it was all new to me.

We parked beside this crookedest of doors…

Crooked Door in Cooperstown NY

In one store, we waited out a passing thunderstorm, browsing through shirts and books and posters and pennants and everything else baseball related.  These places make you consider decorating your whole house in “baseball chic” but I resisted the temptation.

We walked along the main street with its red brick buildings.  Over our two days I’m pretty sure we went into every shop on the street, some more than one time!

Main Street Cooperstown NY

The kids spent a lot of time looking at baseball cards.  Every shop had cards and they loved finding their favorite players and wondering if the gum would still be good in the packs from the 80s and 90s and  deciding what cards were worth their money.

Baseball Store in Cooperstown NY

We walked by Doubleday Field…there were no games the first day but we caught most of a game on the second day.  We were only chased out by another thunderstorm.
Doubleday Field

We saved the Hall of Fame for the second day so we’d have as much time as we wanted.  We probably spent five hours there with a break in the middle for lunch – ball park franks of course!

Baseball Hall of Fame

You could spend days in the museum and still not read everything or take it all in.  5 hours is a long time for 8 and 10 year olds but there was always something interesting around every corner.

Babe, Ted & Casey

The kids had bats made with their names engraved on them and we caught the game at Doubleday while waiting for them to be finished.


One of the more interesting parts of this trip was the hotel/inn where we stayed.  I pictured it a little like the lodge from Dirty Dancing.  It didn’t quite live up those expectations.

Baseball Hotel

Breakfast Room at Baseball Hotel

It was rustic and quaint and we all appreciated the ample reading material found everywhere but not necessarily the squeaky bed and loud AC unit in the window.  The kids settled down with an encyclopedia and teacher’s edition of a life science textbook for bedtime reading.

Bedtime Reading

But there was a lot of room to have a catch in the backyard and picnic tables to eat our grocery store sandwiches when we just couldn’t handle another restaurant.

Playing Catch Behind the Baseball Hotel

And fire pits…where great effort and gasoline couldn’t overcome wet wood but the kids enjoyed their marshmallows even if they weren’t roasted.

Huge Marshmallows

Overall it was a great trip and we hope to go back in a few years with a team to play some games.  I remembered how much I love upstate New York and the gorgeous country scenery.  You forget about hills when you live in the flat land of Florida!

Now that we’re back, the kids have added their new baseball cards to their collections, are working on their renditions of Who’s on First?, and we’ve started watching a few of the baseball movies that got added to the list.



Tampa home

The Book Thread – Space Books

**I’m always in the middle of reading something so I thought I would share some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed.  I enjoy a wide variety of books from nonfiction to summer beach reads so I’m going to try to pick a category of books and write about some of my favorites during my “The Book Thread” update.**
Favorite Space Books-2

(This post contains affiliate links which do not change the price to you but will compensate me if you think I’ve recommended some good books which you choose to buy.  Happy reading!)

I’m currently reading A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin that I picked up at a thrift store.  (I love browsing the thrift store books shelves to find some great books for great prices!)  While I’m only a quarter of the way through the book, it’s already getting a 5 star rating from me.  I’m learning more about the Apollo program but really feeling like I get the know the astronauts and they are so intriguing.

I’ve been a fan of books about the Apollo missions since I was in high school.  Someone left a copy of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell at the family cottage one summer and I picked it up and started reading.  I loved it so much that I seriously looked into studying aeronautical engineering in college.  I was torn between architecture and aeronautical engineering but the schools I was looking at had either one or the other.  Ultimately I chose architecture only to switch to electrical engineering a semester later…since Norwich didn’t have an aeronautical program.

About three years ago, I stumbled across Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond at my favorite Maine store – Marden’s – when I was home for the summer.  It was another 5 star book for me about NASA and the space missions written by Gene Kranz, who I first read about as a flight director in Apollo 13.  Back when I thought about going into aeronautical engineering, I never wanted to be an astronaut, I wanted to be Gene Kranz.

3rd graders at our elementary school get to go on a field trip to Kennedy Space Center and I was a chaperone on my son’s trip last year.  I think I might have had a better time than some of the kids.  It was so amazing to see where it all happened/happens and reminded me of my love for space exploration.  I picked up The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s Race in Space
by Eugene Cernan.  I haven’t jumped into this one yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a summer read for me.

My son and I enjoyed Kennedy Space Center so much that we went back last summer and are thinking about going again this summer.  And, I’ll have a 3rd grader next year so hopefully I can chaperone a field trip again.

Also, one more book about space that I loved but is in the fiction genre is The Martian by Andy Weir.  It had the adventure of Mars mixed with some scientific geek stuff and a character with a good sense of humor.  I might not have picked it up except it was a book chosen by our book club.  I’m realizing that after writing about four 5-star space books in the one post, whether fiction or non-fiction, they might be some of my favorite books.  Of course I’m likely to say that about other books in the future too!

I should also say that I’m sure there are many other great books about space out there, but these are the ones I have read and enjoyed.  If you have any recommendations for books like these, let me know in the comments and I’ll probably add them to my never-ending “to-read” list!